Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bible Questions

Casting The Stones?

Q. I recently heard that the stones on the breastplate that the priest wore, were taken out, and cast down, much in the way (for those who practice it) chicken bones are thrown down, to see what God wanted them to do. I was told, “that is the only way they heard from God”.

This, I just don’t believe! I have never read anywhere in God’s word of the Preist throwing down the stones out of the breast plate. Surely, if God can speak to Moses, and Abraham, He spoke to those High Priests.

Also, on tithing. Study the word “storehouse”. A lot of people think “money” If it was only money, then why did Paul need all that help carrying it with him? Anyway, just some of my thoughts.

A. There’s no merit to the idea that the High Priest took the stones out of the breast plate and cast them down. He received answers from God with the Urim and Thumim, two lots kept in a hidden pocket behind the breastplate. One meant yes and the other meant no. Which ever one He pulled out of the pocket was God’s answer. (Exodus 29:30, Numbers 27:21)

According to some, the reason Paul needed help to carry the offering was that they converted it to gold coins and had them sewn into their clothing. They did this to avoid being robbed on the highway. Had they not done so it would have required a wagon to haul all the silver coins and that would have drawn the attention of highway robbers.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bible Questions

Why Did God Go To Sodom And Gomorrah?

Mr. Kelley,

Thanks as always for your time and teaching.

Q. I have a question about Psalm 33 and Genesis 18. In Psalm 33 it states that God sees all of mankind from Heaven. He is able to view and know every man and woman’s thoughts, feelings, etc. There are a number of other places that say as much as well, this is just the one I remembered the Book and chapter for.

In Genesis 18:20-21 He says that He is going down to look at Sodom and Gomorrah to see if the sin and wickedness is as bad as the outcry that has reached Him.

Why? Why would He need to go and see in person when He can see from Heaven?

A. You’re right. God knows and sees everything, so there has to be another reason for His visit. While He used the situation in Sodom and Gomorrah to explain His sudden appearance on the road by Abraham’s home, several important things happened while He was there. First there was the promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah. Then there was the institution of the fellowship meal, a tradition that continues in the Middle East to this day. And finally there was the fact that for the sake of the righteous, God will withhold judgment of the wicked.

All three of these are important to us today. Isaac was called the child of the promise, who was supernaturally born, and later became a model of the Lord’s sacrifice for us (Genesis 22). Jesus used the tradition of the fellowship meal to explain that the Church consists of sinners who are saved by Grace, not because of their meritorious behavior (Matt. 13:33) And in removing Lot from Sodom before destroying it, God created a model of the Rapture of the Church, which has to be removed removed from the time and place of judgment ahead of time. (Luke 17:28-29)


Work force of the Lord

The Parable of the Workers in the Field

So the last will be first, and the first will be last. Matt 20:16

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. “He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

” ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

“But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matt.20: 1-16)

What’s That All About?

I’ve been a management consultant most of my life and before I became a believer I thought the Lord had violated all kinds of motivational principles, not to mention the theory of fair compensation, with this story. Seemed to me like the landowner in the parable was training his workers to show up late. They’d still get paid for the full day.

Then I was born again, and learned that the Lord’s objective in teaching through parables was to enlighten His followers on the ways of the Kingdom, while confusing everyone else. (Matt. 13: 11-13) It had sure worked with me.

I learned that a parable is a heavenly story put into an earthly perspective, and that all the characters represent someone or something else. This one was no different. As usual the landowner represents the Lord, the workers His followers, and the vineyard, His Kingdom. The pay stands for the rewards of salvation. The work is what His followers do to deserve the reward, and the day is the length of time they’re given to do it, normally their lifespan. This parable wasn’t meant to be a management seminar. It was given to illuminate three critical principles having to do with the Kingdom of Heaven.

Three Principles

First, no matter when in your life you decide to join His Kingdom, you are entitled to all the rights and benefits pertaining thereto the moment you do. (Ephe 1:13-14) The last ones hired got the same pay as the first.

Second, you have to sign up before the end of the day. (Hebr. 4:7) No one was hired after the end of the day and as I said, the day represents our lifetime.

Third, if you think you deserve more in the Kingdom because you worked longer or harder or lived a better life than someone else, then you’ve forgotten how you got in. You weren’t saved because of your merit or worthiness, but because of His mercy and grace. Thinking He owes you something extra is a sin that if left unconfessed won’t get you thrown out, (remember every worker is a believer) but it could put a strain on your relationship with the Lord during your life and will certainly diminish your joy at having been accepted into the Kingdom.

Is Your Work All Done?

So what about the work that everyone, whether first or last, had to do to earn their pay? I thought salvation was free, and couldn’t be earned. Earlier, the people had asked the Jesus, “What is the work God requires of us?”
“The work of God is this,” He replied. “Believe in the One He has sent.” (John 6:28-29)

What a perfect opportunity to point out all the things required of us; the 10 Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, or some new list that combined them both and added regular church attendance, tithing, with maybe some missionary work thrown in. No. “Believe in the One He has sent.” Period. End of Story.

The workers who worked all day represent those who have believed in the One He has sent, but then for the rest of their lives have labored long and hard for the Kingdom. Nothing wrong with all their hard work, and it has probably achieved much good, but at the end of the age, if they think they’ll be in for some extra credit, their true motives will be exposed. The jealousy they feel when a terrible sinner makes a last minute confession and is saved without any good works to his credit shows they haven’t been working to express their gratitude to the Lord for what they’ve already been promised, but to earn something more for themselves. (1 Cor. 4:5)

And The First Shall Be Last

When the Lord said, “The last will be first, and the first will be last,” He was describing the spiritual equivalent of being sent to the end of the line. Something like that actually happened to me once. I arrived early for a popular seminar, found a good parking space, took my place near the head of the line that was already forming, and began mentally selecting the great seat I’d head for when the doors opened. As the line quickly got longer and longer, I began gloating over the fact that I wasn’t going to be one of those losers who always arrive at the last minute and get terrible parking and worse seats. No sir, not me.

Finally the doors did open and to my shock I discovered I’d been standing in the wrong place. The first ones there had been misinformed and had started the line in front of the wrong door. The real entrance was at a different door and suddenly I was nearer the end of the line than the beginning. Bummer! I had been feeling so smug and superior, and now I was the loser. I mentally missed the first 15 minutes of the seminar trying to calm down, and never did get over the fact that I had waited all that time to get preferred seating and now my seat was no better than anyone else’s. Going from first to last stole my joy that day, and my superior attitude made it all the worse.

Take Home Pay

If you’re one of those believers the Lord could accuse of being jealous over what someone else is getting, confess and do it now. Don’t let another day go by, estranged from Him by your jealousy.

And here’s one way the parable is different from life. Everyone knew the workday was 12 hours long, so all could predict its end. But who among us can predict the end of our lives? If you’re someone who hasn’t yet fully committed to becoming one of His followers please heed the advice from Hebrews 4:7, “Today if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart” and from 2 Cor. 6:2 “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Join Him now, the wages are great and they pay eternal dividends. Selah 2-7-04

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
-Matthew 19:30

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. “He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.”

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” But he answered one of them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matt. 20:1-16)

What Good Thing Must I Do?

This parable is given as the conclusion to a discussion that began a chapter earlier with a rich young man asking what good thing he must do to inherit eternal life (Matt 19:16-30). By the way, some believe this young man was Mark, future gospel writer and companion of Paul.
As you know, a parable is a heavenly story set in an earthly context. Everyone and everything is symbolic. The key to unlocking a parable is to correctly interpret the symbolism. Here’s my view.

The vineyard represents the body of believers and the landowner is the Lord. The workers are those who respond to His call, the day is their lifetime and the wages eternal life. All through our lives God is calling. Some respond early in life, some later and others at the very end. But all who respond receive eternal life. For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, not by works (Ephe. 2:8-9).

Some workers in the parable resented the fact that all were paid equally, believing that since they worked longer they should have received more. This attitude reflects the spiritual pride found in some long term believers who think their years of service should automatically count for more. It actually betrays their works based theology, showing that they’ve forgotten that we serve the Lord to express our gratitude for what He’s already done, not to earn more of what we expect Him to do. We should be grateful for long years of service because it means we’ve had more opportunities to say thanks. The landowner responded to these malcontents by saying that they had received everything he’d promised them. If he wanted to be generous with the others wasn’t that His right?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord (Isaiah 55:8).
Here on earth an employer who paid his people that way would be considered unfair and could actually be in violation of wage and hour laws. Compensation is normally based upon performance and length of service. That was also the attitude of the rich young man who had asked, “What good thing must I do?” All his life he had been taught the relationship between effort and reward, and he wanted to know what he could do to earn his salvation.

But the Lord looks at things differently. His love for us is derived from who we are, not what we’ve done. And who are we? Children of the King, the highest example of His creative capability, His work of art (Rom 8:17 & Ephe. 2:10). We don’t have to work to earn eternal life, we just have to accept when He offers it. It’s our inheritance, after all.

Riches And Righteousness

The Israelites had been taught that riches were an indication of righteousness and when Jesus now told His disciples that it’s hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, they asked, “Who then can be saved?” “With man this impossible,” Jesus replied, “But with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:23-26). Still not willing to abandon their works theology Peter said, “We have left everything to follow you. What then will there be for us?” (vs. 27)
Then the Lord illustrated the distinction between the free gift of salvation and the rewards that come from properly motivated service. (Read ) They would sit in judgment of the 12 tribes of Israel, and indeed everyone who has abandoned the things of this world in favor of a life of service would receive similar rewards, plus eternal life (vs. 28-29).
Many who perceive themselves as deserving of superior rewards based solely on their hard work or length of service will discover that the Lord’s criteria for such rewards is far different from their own. They will learn the meaning of His phrase, “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (vs. 30) It’s the motive of our heart while serving Him that matters, not the duration or outcome of our effort. (1 Cor 3:10-15) Their pride has disqualified them for special rewards.

So the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard teaches that no matter when in your life you heed His call, you will gain Eternal Life. It’s a gift freely given to all who will receive it, irrespective of effort. The only problem is that you can’t determine in advance when your last chance to accept will come. Better make sure you’ve got it now.

Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebr. 4:7).

Class Differences In Heaven?

Q. I was just reading one of your lessons, and the writer was concerned about class differences in heaven based on our works for the Kingdom after we are saved.

I recalled the parable Jesus taught about the workers who were hired late in the afternoon receiving a penny, the same wage as those who went to work early in the morning. The early birds complained, but the owner of the field said it was his field and his money, and he could pay whatever he wished to whomever he wished.

It seems to me that this teaches that the Blessed will not make invidious comparisons regarding who gets the most rewards in the Kingdom or Eternity. What do you think?

A. The Parable of the Workers In The Vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16) is actually about the fact that no matter when in our lives we accept the Lord’s pardon, we get the same package of benefits as everyone else. Those who have a lifetime of religious work will find themselves no more completely saved than those who confessed with their dying breath. This is because it’s our faith that saves us, not our work.

Even so, you’re right in saying that none us will feel any envy, jealousy or animosity toward another believer. These are emotions of the sin nature from which we’ll have been freed in the resurrection/rapture.

Eternal Service Status?

Q. I read an article about the rapture and the author mentioned the Bema Seat. He wrote:

“Those who have lived carnal lived–lives that are not walking in the will of God will lose rewards at the bema, or judgment seat of Christ. The believer must do his or her best to live the way God expects of His children while still in this mortal flesh. The child of God should take this truth very seriously. How he or she attempts to walk righteously here on earth will determine his or her eternal service status when they look into their Lord’s omniscient eyes.”

What is disturbing me is this “determined eternal service status”. Is there any hint in the Bible for the validation of this statement? I’m not happy that I will probably lose rewards but it’s OK. However I don’t want to be “doomed” to an eternal kind of state or status, whatever it is, that is unchangeable. It would be depressing that in eternity despite I’m in heaven, there isn’t a chance or a single ray of hope to change our state or status if this kind of things really exist. What is your opinion on this?

A. The phrase “eternal service status” is man made and doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible. Neither is there any guidance given that connects our behavior here with our relative status in eternity, only for the crowns we’ll be given.

But there’s no way we’ll spend eternity regretting things we did or didn’t do here. That would conflict with everything we’ve been taught about our joy in the presence of the Lord.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Parental Biblical Discipline

Question: "How should Christians discipline their children? What does the Bible say?"

Answer: How to best discipline children can be difficult task to learn, but it is crucially important. Some claim that physical discipline (corporal punishment) such as spanking is the only method the Bible supports. Others insist that “time-outs” and other punishments that do not involve physical discipline are far more effective. What does the Bible say? The Bible teaches that physical discipline is appropriate, beneficial, and necessary.

Do not misunderstand—we are by no means advocating child abuse. A child should never be disciplined physically to the extent that it causes actual physical damage. According to the Bible, though, the appropriate and restrained physical discipline of children is a good thing and contributes to the well-being and correct upbringing of the child.

Many Scriptures do in fact promote physical discipline. “Don't fail to correct your children. They won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death” (Proverbs 23:13-14; see also 13:24; 22:15; 20:30). The Bible strongly stresses the importance of discipline; it is something we must all have in order to be productive people, and it is much more easily learned when we are young. Children who are not disciplined often grow up rebellious, have no respect for authority, and as a result find it difficult to willingly obey and follow God. God Himself uses discipline to correct us and lead us down the right path and to encourage repentance for our wrong actions (Psalm 94:12; Proverbs 1:7; 6:23; 12:1; 13:1; 15:5; Isaiah 38:16; Hebrews 12:9).

In order to apply discipline correctly and according to biblical principles, parents must be familiar with the scriptural advice regarding discipline. The book of Proverbs contains plentiful wisdom regarding the rearing of children, such as, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). This verse outlines the consequences of not disciplining a child—the parents are disgraced. Of course, discipline must have as its goal the good of the child and must never be used to justify the abuse and mistreatment of children. Never should it be used to vent anger or frustration.

Discipline is used to correct and train people to go in the right way. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). God's discipline is loving, as should it be between parent and child. Physical discipline should never be used to cause lasting physical harm or pain. Physical punishment should always be followed immediately by comforting the child with assurance that he/she is loved. These moments are the perfect time to teach a child that God disciplines us because He loves us and that, as parents, we do the same for our children.

Can other forms of discipline, such as “time-outs,” be used instead of physical discipline? Some parents find that their children do not respond well to physical discipline. Some parents find that “time-outs,” grounding, and/or taking something away from the children is more effective in encouraging behavioral change. If that is indeed the case, by all means, a parent should employ the methods that best produce the needed behavioral change. While the Bible undeniably advocates physical discipline, the Bible is more concerned with the goal of building godly character than it is in the precise method used to produce that goal.

Making this issue even more difficult is the fact that governments are beginning to classify all manner of physical discipline as child abuse. Many parents do not spank their children for fear of being reported to the government and risk having their children taken away. What should parents do if a government has made physical discipline of children illegal? According to Romans 13:1-7, parents should submit to the government. A government should never contradict God’s Word, and physical discipline is, biblically speaking, in the best interest of children. However, keeping children in families in which they will at least receive some discipline is far better than losing children to the “care” of the government.

In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are told not to exasperate their children. Instead, they are to bring them up in God’s ways. Raising a child in the “training and instruction of the Lord” includes restrained, corrective, and, yes, loving physical discipline.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Mystery of the Church

Why Was The Church Hidden?

Q. Given the “peak to peak” view of End Times prophecies, why is it that the Church Age is always omitted from the clear statement of prophecy? Also, given the importance of the Church in God’s scheme, why did He fail to tell mankind about it?

A. Remember when God told Abraham He was giving him the Promised Land but Abraham couldn’t have it for 400 years because the sin of the Amorites was not yet complete? (Genesis 15:12-21) . God had given the Amorites some unknown amount time to repent and return to Him, and there were 400 years remaining. He knew they weren’t going to do it, but He kept His promise to them anyway.

It’s the same with Israel and the Church. God promised Israel a Kingdom, and sent His Son to be their King. He knew they would reject Him, but He kept the offer open anyway because He had made a promise. Even after they had put Him to death, Jesus gave them 40 more days to accept him before returning to Heaven. When they didn’t, the Church was born, and the Kingdom came to us in fulfillment of the Lord’s prophecy of Matt. 21: 43-44.

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

He spoke this a few days before the crucifixion, at the end of the Parable of the Tenants, where He prophesied His death at their hands.

But they’re not the only ones who didn’t know what the Lord would accomplish through the Church. In 1 Cor. 2:7-8 Paul said that if the rulers of this age (Satan & Co.) had known what was coming they would never have crucified the Lord.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tithing? Follow Up

New Testament Tithing, Follow Up

Q. If, as you say, tithing is a minimum standard, where in the NT does it say that the minimum standard is 10%?

The purpose of biblical tithing in the OT was to support the Levites, who were not allowed possess any property on which they could raise any stock or crops. Tithing, in essence, was food for the Levites. What is the purpose of NT tithing, since there is no temple and no Levitical priesthood to receive the tithe?

A. Your insistence that I provide a New Testament commandment to tithe seems to indicate you believe it was part of the Law, to which New Testament believers are not obligated. But in truth the concept of giving to the Lord 10% of our increase predates the giving of the Law by nearly 1000 years. Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20), and Jacob adopted the practice as well (Genesis 28:22). At the time there was no Temple, no priesthood, and no Law. They didn’t do this out of obedience to the Law but out of gratitude for the blessings they received. This is where the 10% standard originated, not at Mt. Sinai. The principle of tithing was was confirmed in the Law but did not originate there.

As you already know, there is no New Testament commandment to tithe, but this is beside the point as well. I try to demonstrate in my teaching that tithing out of a feeling of obligation to the Law is not Biblical and never has been. Unless we feel a genuine gratitude for what the Lord has done for us, our tithing is for naught. But when we tithe out of gratitude, we’re blessed beyond all measure, and according to Matt. 6:19-21 those blessings are not just for this world but follow us into the next one as well. It’s a way we store up treasure in Heaven.

As to where you tithe, pick a place. There are countless opportunities to pitch in and help with the work of the Kingdom. You don’t need to give to a church or even a para-church ministry. If you prefer, you can distribute your gifts directly to those in need. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you (Matt. 6:4)

What puzzles me most about all this is why you and others argue so passionately against something the Lord designed to be one of His greatest blessings, perhaps second only to our salvation.

To learn more about the Biblical basis for tithing and how the Church changed it, click here

Another Tithing Question

Q. I have read various articles regarding the Tithe and have found that the New Testament does not include tithing like it is in the Old Testament and especially the way it is explained in Malachi. Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law and tithing is in the law. Jesus taught to give as you purpose in your heart not grudgingly or of necessity.

This means that all that we have belongs to God and we are stewards of these things. The way we handle these things will determine our love towards God. The new covenant in Christ is “what is yours is mine and what is mine is yours”. Is it correct then to say that 10% should not be preached but rather that all is Gods and not only the 10%. By doing this, if God wants us to give all we have, then we need to do so because of the covenant we have with him.

A. Those are lofty thoughts and that’s the way things should work. But the sad truth is that in America over 40% of born again Christians never give anything. I think that’s because giving is always taught as an obligation rather than an expression of gratitude. This is why so many well intended folks do research to prove that tithing is not a New Testament requirement. We all resent being told that we have to give, and being “guilted” into doing it, so we try to get by with giving as little as possible. This makes us stingy givers, and not the cheerful ones the Lord loves.

If the Church had focused on all the blessings that come from giving that the Bible teaches about, there would be more than enough to go around. I don’t know of anyone who understands the Biblical basis for tithing (and the rewards that come from doing so) then decides to stop doing it. It would simply be too expensive.

Here’s what the New Testament says about giving. The Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7), and will use our level of giving to determine our level of blessing (Luke 6:38). Where ever He finds generous givers He will will make them rich in every way so they can be even more generous (2 Cor. 9:11). But it’s not meant to be an obligation. It’s meant to be an expression of gratitude. 10% is simply the amount the Lord established as the standard. Under 10% is being stingy, over 10% is being generous.

Do I Have To Tithe On Gifts?

Q. I was told to tithe off of gifts too. Is this biblical? I tithe off of my gross & also give offerings. I thought tithing was off of your “income” (ex. paychecks, investment profits) but I’ve never heard it taught where you also tithe off of gifts. I do not want to be under a curse, please give me your views.

Also, if I get a scholarship award for schooling, am I to tithe off of that even if the total went to the school & I received no money personally? Thank you so much for your time!

A. You’re already doing better than most, but you’re missing the point. Tithing isn’t something you do because you have to do, it’s something you do out of gratitude for what God has done for you. And the more generous you are with Him the more generous He will be with you. (Luke 6:38)

If you get a scholarship, doesn’t that reduce your tuition, thereby saving you having to spend your own money? Therefore, don’t you wind up with more money than you would have had otherwise?

Try looking for opportunities to give and do it even if you don’t feel you need to. As long as your attitude is one of gratitude, and not obligation, God will more than reimburse you. This way you’ll see 2 Cor. 9:11 come true for you. “You’ll be made rich in every way so you can be generous on every occasion.”

Should I Tithe On My Gross Or Net Pay?

Q. With all the questions about tithing I’ve managed to come up with one of my own. When we tithe, should we tithe the 10% off of our gross or net pay? I’ve never really ever considered the money that the government takes from me as mine to begin with and never felt the compulsion to tithe off of it, but I just wanted to get your insight on the subject.

A. The sheep herder in Israel didn’t deduct the cost of feeding his sheep, or the value of the wool he didn’t get to harvest and sell on the sheep he contributed, or take a depletion allowance because wild animals ate a portion of his flock every year. When it came time to pay his tithe, he counted off every tenth lamb that had been born that year and gave it to the Lord.

Having spent most of my life in my own business, I know that there’s a big difference between what a person earns and what he gets to keep. But when I began tithing, I decided to tithe off my company’s gross receipts, before deducting any expenses at all. I know that I could have deducted a lot of my gross for expenses, like I did for tax purposes, because it wasn’t really my money. But Luke 6:38 says that with the measure you use it will be measured to you, and 2 Cor. 9:11 says that God would make us rich in every way so that we could be generous on every occasion, so I decided to be like the sheep herder and err on the side of generosity. I’ve always been glad I did because I’ve learned that you can’t out give the Lord.



Understanding Rev. 20-22

Q. Please help me understand the following. You state that only the Church Age Saints will live in the New Jerusalem during the Millennium. And that the Church Age Saints will be able to go back and forth from the New Jerusalem and earth. What scripture supports that those Saints will be able to go back and forth? Is the New Heaven and New Earth created after the Millennium? Also, when the New Heavens and New Earth are created will the Church Age Saints still reside in the New Jerusalem or will they live on the New Earth? Does scripture give insight what they will be doing (work, play, create, govern etc.) with regard to the New Heavens and New Earth? Thank you for any clarification on the above.

A. There is much confusion surrounding the New Jerusalem and New Heavens and New Earth that arises from what I believe is a misunderstanding of the chronology in Rev. 20-22.

Here’s a quick time line as I see it. In Rev. 20 the first 6 verses deal with the time at the beginning of the Millennium just after the Lord’s return. Then verses 7-15 skip to the End on the Millennium to deal with the final disposition of Satan and the resurrection of unbelievers. In Rev. 21:1 John went back to the beginning of the Millennium to describe the New Jerusalem which he saw coming down out of heaven. To let us know he was backtracking, John opened chapter 21 with a direct quote from Isaiah 65:17 which describes Earth at the beginning of the Millennium. When the Lord returns, the Earth will be in total ruin from the terrible destruction of the Great Tibulation and will have to be restored to the condition it was in when Adam was created to make the promises of Isaiah 65 and other places come true for Israel. The first 5 verses of chapter 22 are a summary of Ezekiel 47:1-12, another view of Earth at the beginning of the Millennium, confirming that chapters 21 and 22 describe the Millennium, not eternity.

Following the Rapture, the Church will dwell in the New Jerusalem forever. All we know about what we’ll be doing is that in some way we’ll be assisting the Lord in His millennial reign. The Bible offers no information or detail about life in eternity. As for the saints going back and forth, Jesus went back and forth, and 1 John 3:2 says we’ll be like Him.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Narrow or the Broad Road?

Two Roads, Two Gates, One Goal

This Week’s Feature Article by Jack Kelley

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)

This passage is often quoted in reference to the different roads traveled by unbelievers as opposed to believers. Unbelievers are said to be on a broad road with many fellow travelers, all on the way to their destruction. Believers on the other hand are a small segment of humanity and are on a narrow road to salvation. This difference is further defined by some as pertaining to our behavior. The unbeliever’s gate is wide and his road is broad, supposedly indicating that there’s room for all kinds of sinful behavior, while for the believer it’s a small gate and a narrow road suggesting that there’s very little latitude for misbehaving. A careless step or two and you may find yourself being rerouted onto the broad road.

If you look at these 2 verses alone it’s easy to understand why so many see them this way. But in the context of the chapter a different picture emerges.

In Matthew 7 the people in focus all claim to be believers, and the emphasis is on their fruit. The Lord began by admonishing us against judging others,

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2)

Verses 3-5 have to do with judgment within the community of believers.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

We’re all sinners and hypocrites who have a tendency to pounce all over even the “minor” sins of others while ignoring our own massive list of transgressions. Why is it that those who test the Lord’s patience to the max are often the most acrimonious in their accusations of others?

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? (Romans 2:1-3)

Intolerant, judgmental believers are convinced they’re defending the faith and that they’ll receive the commendation due them from the Lord. But these verses indicate quite the opposite.

As much as we ignore the warnings in verses 3-5, our disregard for verse 6 is even more glaring. It has to do with our attitude toward unbelievers.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

Expecting the unbelieving world to conform to our moral standards is ridiculous. And yet to the world the church is known primarily for its holier-than-thou hypocrisy in doing just that. Like the Pharisees of old we demand that others live up to behavioral standards we ourselves don’t keep. For example studies show that our divorce and abortion rates are no different from theirs. And it’s a known fact that we indulge in more than our share of adultery, theft, gluttony, avarice, greed, and so on, as well.

It’s like we have forgotten all about the Lord’s advice that the best way to convert the world is for the Church to become what it was meant to be, an agent of His love (John 13:34-35). Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Romans 2:4) It’s God’s kindness and mercy that bring people to Him, not threats of condemnation.

Some think it’s persecution when unbelievers pass laws that contradict our beliefs and restrict our freedoms while promoting the freedom of others. But maybe it’s just them turning on us for the way we’ve pushed our beliefs on them, like the Lord said they would.

In Matt. 7:7-12 the way to salvation is explained to us. It’s summarized in verse 8. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. If you ask for it, you’ll receive it. It’s this message of hope that’s needed for our time, not judgment and condemnation.

I don’t think it’s an accident that in verse 10 the Lord asked, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” The comparison of bread with a stone takes us back to the Wilderness Temptation when Satan challenged Him to turn stones into bread. He replied, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) God’s Word is life, and Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35). Stones are dead. If we ask for life will the Lord give us death instead?

But the comparison of a fish to a serpent symbolizes the central thought of the entire chapter. The fish stands for Jesus and became the symbol of His followers. The serpent stands for Satan. Jesus called the leaders of His day’s organized religion children of the devil (John 8:44), who with their insistence on a mindless obedience to their laws (Isaiah 29:13) rather than faith in a coming Redeemer, made their converts twice the sons of hell as they were (Matt. 23:15). They had turned God’s love into a tool of the devil, and sadly there are many in the church still doing the same thing today.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.(Matt 7:12) The phrase Law and Prophets was a Jewish idiom for their Scriptures, the Old Testament. While we think of the Golden Rule as a New Testament idea, Jesus said it summarized the Old Testament as well. If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge. If you don’t want to be condemned, don’t condemn. If you want mercy, be merciful. If you want to be forgiven, forgive. If you want to receive, give. (Luke 6:36-38)

There’s a reason why verses 13-14 are in the middle of the chapter and not the beginning or the end. Up till now we’ve been looking at misdirected believers who think they’re defending the faith but instead will find themselves defending fruitless lives at judgment time. Now we’ll see examples of those who claim to be in the Church, but will actually be left behind when the Rapture comes.

Matt. 7:15-23 warns us against following false prophets, saying, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt. 7:22-23)

Appearing to perform miracles in the Lord’s name does not make someone His follower, so we shouldn’t blindly accept them as such, but should inspect their doctrine. Remember Satan will appear to perform miracles and will deceive many. (2 Thes. 2:9-10) Only those who do His father’s will can claim the Son, regardless of what else they say or do. And what is the father’s will? Here’s the Lord’s answer. “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)

Nowhere is the Father’s will as it regards our salvation stated more clearly. Anyone who adds any requirement or qualification to this declaration (or takes anything from it) is a false prophet even if they perform miracles in the Lord’s name.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matt. 7:24-27)

Here is the Lord’s summary statement complete with one final comparison, this one aimed at the liberals. In Matt. 16: 16-18 Jesus called Peter’s confession that He was the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God, the rock on which He would build the Church. Paul wrote that the rock Moses struck to provide water for the Israelites represented Christ. For they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Cor. 10:4) From ancient times, the priest would call God’s people to worship saying, “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.” (Psalm 95:1) And today we sing, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

A doctrine of salvation that’s built upon anything other than the personal relationship with Jesus that comes from being born again rests precariously on sinking sand. (John 3:3) He alone is the foundation of our faith, and unless our salvation is built exclusively upon this Rock, it will be of no avail to us when we stand before Him on that Day.

From the context of the chapter, we can see that the Lord’s topic was salvation. We don’t deserve ours so we shouldn’t judge others when it looks to us like they don’t deserve theirs. We have no right to think of ourselves as being better than unbelievers, so we shouldn’t try to impose our values on them. We received our salvation simply because we asked for it in faith. There was no merit or worthiness involved, nothing to commend us. But we should be very wary of those who would propose alternatives to salvation by grace through faith alone, whether by adding to or subtracting from it, even if they perform miracles.

Now let’s go back to verses 13-14. Each of the two roads is thought by its travelers to be the way to salvation. But the name engraved above the wide gate is Works and multitudes who call themselves Christians are striving to get there. They run the gamut from extreme legalism to extreme liberalism, but have in common a belief that it’s their behavior that saves them.

The legalist proudly proclaims, “Jesus may have begun my salvation, but I finished it. I have kept the commandments and no longer sin. I have earned the right to call others to account for their behavior. How else will they learn?”

The false prophet says, “I’m a miracle worker, just like the Lord was. Who can doubt that I’m His.”

The artificially modest liberal says “I’m a good person and I’ve tried to live a good life. There are many roads to salvation and as long as we’re sincere in what we believe, the Lord will understand and accept us.”

None of them realizes the road he’s on leads to destruction.

But at the end of the narrow road stands a small gate on which the word Faith is inscribed. As we come alongside the few travelers on this road we can hear them softly singing,

“Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”

This is the road to Life.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Selah. 07-18-09